Tribute

VJ Bharath: May your tribe increase

I have known Bharath for exactly 50 years. He married my classmate Jayashree in 1967 and I met him for the first time at their wedding. After that I saw him two years later when in 1969 I joined Bharath, as an apprentice. From then until a few days ago we were together, initially as employer and employee, then as associates in Bharath & Associates, very soon after that as brothers-in-law, then as partners, and finally as colleagues at MEASI Academy of Architecture where we were both Design Chairs after we retired from B&A. More than all of these we were very good friends almost right from the beginning.

Bharath had a very easy way of running a firm and his easy going nature and ready wit made the work place a fun place to be. And yet, there was no compromise on working to the best of our ability on behalf of our clients, and giving them all the services that an architect is expected to give. In fact, in that respect, Bharath was very “old school.” I have not seen a more quick-witted person than Bharath. There was always laughter in any room in which he was, and the best part is that his wit was never directed at others in a hurtful manner.

Bharath & Associates consisted of six partners. None of his partners ever had to ask Bharath at any stage to be made a partner. As early as in 1972, Bharath asked several of us to be his associates rather than his employees. He did this of his own free will, and later made us his partners. Much later, and again with no pressure from his employees to do so, he made some more employees associates and gave them a share of the firm's profits. The point is that for Bharath, fair play and equitable sharing was the done thing. No wonder that the sport closest to his heart was golf, a sport in which the rules are sacred but the responsibility to observe the rules and penalise oneself if the rules are broken rests with the player himself. Bharath treated all the people engaged in our projects with equal respect, trust, and friendship, and all of us followed suit, as a result the people that we have worked with are now some of our closest friends.

In 2014, both Bharath and I joined MEASI as Design Chairs. We were now spending even more time together. But in 2015, Bharath's health deteriorated and from then on it was a battle. My admiration for him went up by leaps and bounds observing the way he handled himself after he was diagnosed with cancer. He refused to let it dictate how he should live and continued to live life on his terms almost right up to the very end. He did not hide the fact that he had cancer nor did he advertise it. As a result there were many who were full of admiration for the way he was handling his situation. At the same time there were very many more, including his colleagues at MEASI, who were shocked at his passing away. They had had no inkling that he had any health problem at all.

Both in the way he lived his life to the full, and in the way he left this world with dignity and head held high, Bharath showed us how it should be done.

V Balaji

 

An easy, uncomplicated person

V J Bharath had some exceptional qualities that made our office a happy working place – his confidence, his trust in people, his sense of humour, his openness to new ideas and most of all his non-hierarchical approach. He was an easy uncomplicated person, he exuded confidence and nothing ever fazed him. He was almost never pessimistic. If he made a mistake, he would openly admit it and take steps to see that the error was corrected. This aspect helped win the trust of many clients and contractors.

Fresh out of college, all of us, Cheenu, Diwakar, Balaji and I, were thrown into the deep end of the office pool. VJB, as we would call him, always had the confidence that we would surface and swim. Without him, the architectural journey would have been less adventurous and less pleasurable. In the 1970s, architects offices were mostly sombre places where servile behaviour was expected of contractors and even of consultants. VJB never followed that norm. Everybody – clients, contractors, and staff — was treated as an equal and as a partner in the process. This set the trend for many architect offices that came later. His trust in people was, to me, his most admirable quality. I still remember an occasion in the early 70’s, when VJB paid the total estimated amount for the flooring for his own house to a mosaic contractor even before the work began. This, at a time, when the mosaic company had all but closed down and he was almost penniless. This display of trust in his ability by Bharath gave him the courage to rebuild his life. Clients and contractors remained Bharath’s friends and loyalists for life.

His sense of humour is well known in all the circles he moved in – the clubs, the Masonic Lodge, the golf course, and the Architectural community at large. It definitely helped him in dealing with sticky situations. When a client once wanted VJB to give assurance that the flooring would be flawless, VJB replied, “That depends on yours, mine and the contractor’s horoscopes all matching!” One could also say of him – he had strong convictions but held them loosely. He did not impose his views or opinions on others even if he did not agree with them. This in an office where hours were spent in arguing whether the small cup (below the coffee tumbler) should be called ‘dabara’, ’davara’ or ‘dahara’!

VJB was truly young at heart and loved new “toys”. And like a child he grew bored of them and sought new ones. Gizmos being advertised caught his attention and he would excitedly buy it – never matter the cost or whether he actually needed it! Jayashree dealt with the debris of such purchases with the patience of a saint. In the same vein, he was the first one to try any new building material in the market. True to his nature, these were first tried out either at his home or in the office. When clients remarked on the torn false ceiling that hung in the conference room of our office for several months, he would with nonchalance answer that this was to warn clients not to go anywhere near that product!

The VJB anecdotes are endless - all I can say is it was forty-odd years of fun and friendship. It would not have been so but for Bharath – a truly special person.

Tara Murali

V.J. Bharath, the well-known Chennai-based architect, passed away on September 9, 2017. V Balaji and Tara Murali are Partners at Bharath & Associates, a firm founded by V.J. Bharath

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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 12:10:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/tribute-to-vj-bharath-may-your-tribe-increase/article19719320.ece

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